Good Soup with Goal Support: Toronto 3, Montreal 0
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Good Soup with Goal Support: Toronto 3, Montreal 0

Good Soup with Goal Support: Toronto 3, Montreal 0 by Melissa Burgess

A late offensive flurry extended PWHL Toronto's winning streak to four games, as they captured a 3-0 win over PWHL Montreal in front of a record-breaking crowd at Scotiabank Arena on Friday night.

What happened?

Friday's game was a tight, physical battle with plenty of hits, plenty of shots and a small handful of goals that capped off a perfect scene for Toronto in front of their biggest hometown crowd yet. Although there wasn't any scoring early on, there were plenty of penalties – all fruitless.

Speaking of hits, here's a quick look (via the league) at how that broke down:

Finally, Jesse Compher broke the game open with just under 15 minutes left in the third period. A nice play by Hannah Miller sent the puck off the wall and to the middle of the ice; while the resulting shot went wide, the puck wound up in the corner and Brittany Howard got it over to Compher in the slot. Compher got Ann-Renée Desbiens to go down and capitalized top-shelf to put Toronto up 1-0.

The ever-underrated Miller provided an insurance goal with 4:39 to play, doubling Toronto's lead. Miller showcased a bit of stick work to get around a Montreal skater, then took the shot from outside the circle to the right of Desbiens that fooled the goaltender and hit the back of the net. It was also Miller's birthday. "This is definitely the coolest birthday I've had ever, probably," she said after the game.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Montreal pulled Desbiens a bit early, with over four minutes remaining and down by a pair. Toronto wasted no time before Victoria Bach sealed it with an empty-net goal with 4:07 left in regulation. Bach stripped Erin Ambrose of the puck at the blue line and popped it in the open net with a long shot as she made her way down the ice. It was her first PWHL goal in just her third game with the team.

Kristen Campbell made 30 saves for her second shutout of the season. After a somewhat rough start to the season, she's now 6-4-0 with a 2.35 GAA and .913 save percentage and is 5-0-0 in her last five games.

"When I get into the zone, I don't really see the crowd or hear the crowd. When we scored – I definitely heard the crowd," Campbell said.

In other stats: Marie-Philip Poulin went 9/20 in faceoffs. Blayre Turnbull had six hits and one shot, while Sarah Nurse went 12/18 in the faceoff circle and had four hits and one shot.

Three up, three down

↑ Toronto's PK – Toronto's penalty kill continues to be impressive, at a league-leading 94.4% following Friday's game. They successfully killed off three in the first period, including one minute of a 3-on-5, as well as a brief kill in the second and two more in the third. (Their power play, on the other hand, could use some work. They went 0-for-3 and have capitalized on just 8.8% of power plays this season.)

 No goals for you, Montreal – Montreal remains second in the PWHL, but this is now the second time this season they've been shut out by a score of 3-0 in front of a record crowd. (More on that in a second.) It's undoubtedly a lot of pressure, playing in front of such big road crowds, and they haven't had much luck finding the back of the net in those situations. It's not for a lack of trying, though; Marie-Philip Poulin had a game-leading six shots on goal.

Kori Cheverie fielded her least favorite question after the game about Montreal's power play, but they did generate their grade-A chances – they just couldn't beat Campbell. "I liked the way our power played look tonight. Had some good chances had some good net-front. It's coming and we'll continue to work on it." Still, if Montreal converts on any of those, this is a much different game.

↑ Support for women's hockey – What more could you ask for? A loud, enthusiastic, sold-out crowd of 19,285 in attendance at Scotiabank Arena was complemented by over 12,000 watching the live broadcast on YouTube. That doesn't even take into consideration the number of people who watched on TSN's television broadcast (which was simulcast on YouTube) or the great crowd back in Montreal at an official watch party at La Cage - Centre Bell. The time for women's sports, and specifically women's hockey, is now.

Erin Ambrose was heartened by the huge crowd despite the fact that she had to be on the losing team in front of them. "It didn't just sell out. It sold out in minutes," she said after the game. "It's a regular season game. It's February. And people want to watch. We're putting the product out there and people want to watch."

↓ One streak snapped – Both teams entered Friday's game on respective winning streaks of three games each. After a long scoreless period, Toronto finally came out on top, extending their winning streak to four and ending Montreal's. Montreal's last loss also came to Toronto, in a 4-3 shootout loss on January 20.

↑ Having fun - Fans watching the YouTube broadcast were treated to a special surprise, as some of the scratched players joined the chat during the first intermission. Toronto's Jess Jones and Carly Jackson hopped on, while Brigitte Laganière and Marlène Boissonnault signed on to represent Montreal. The players got to experience first-hand some of the craziness that can be the live chat during PWHL games, while also interacting with fans, answering questions and the like.

↓ Is it a dig? – Did Toronto GM Gina Kingsbury take a dig at the former Premier Hockey Federation during the second intermission interviews? Maybe. Kingsbury was discussing the shift from the international game to being part of a real hockey season, and said "It's just great to have professional hockey in these cities, in these markets." Both Toronto and Montreal had teams in the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) last season, including the Isobel Cup championship winning team. And they were, before that, home to the Montreal Stars/Les Canadiennes and the Toronto Furies of the CWHL. It is, of course, good that both Toronto and Montreal still have pro women's hockey. But it's been a long legacy – this is nothing new.

VP's Player of the Game

Natalie Spooner – Enough can't be said about just how good Natalie Spooner is. Though she didn't directly contribute to any of the goals, she was a plus-1 and led Toronto with five shots on goal. That marks the fifth time in the last six games that she's registered 5+ shots on goal, and she had seven goals in the past three games, so she's been contributing offensively regularly as of late. You might even say she's playing some of the best hockey of her career; it's been fantastic to watch.

Zoë Hayden contributed reporting to this article.

(Photo: PWHL)